While doing some online research regarding the Black Business Bazaar, set to be held on February 10 at the Pratt-Willert Community Center (422 Pratt Street), featuring 30 black-owned vendors (hosted by African Heritage Food Co-op), I came across an interesting video that delves into the partial history of Buffalo’s black business community. The video, produced by Doug Ruffin at Urban Legacy Filmworks, is based around an interview with civic leader Raymond A. Smith, as he discusses “how The Black Development Foundation helped to establish and support various black businesses in the city of Buffalo, New York in the early 1970’s.”
Listening to Smith talk about his own realization that the black community was in need of skills, not necessarily infusions of money, and how that realization came to pass, is a real eye opener. This video is especially poignant, as some of these very same conversations are still underway today.
When people think about the East Side of Buffalo, what comes to mind? Some people might think of food desserts, strong knit neighborhoods, racial divide, The Scajaquada Expressway, the Broadway market, MLK Park, The Foundry, ReUse Action, Lee’s barbecue, EM Tea Coffee Cup Café, disinvestment, The Freedom Wall, The Central Terminal, urban farming, Varsity Theatre, opportunity, land banking, The Mattress Factory Lofts, refugees, Torn Space Theater… the East Side means many things to many people.
In order to understand the East Side, one must either live there, visit, support the businesses, or have some sort of connection other than what is seen on TV. Maybe a little history lesson by Doug Ruffin is a good place to start, for those who want some historic insight?
Now, think about some of the projects that are being championed today – Northland Central workforce development, and the African Heritage Co-op – and you just might see some of Raymond A. Smith’s words of wisdom coming to pass.
Check out the above video. Hopefully you will find a good takeaway. If you do, maybe it might help you to better understand what it is that we should all be supporting as a cohesive community that cares about Buffalo as a whole, rather than sides.